Human beings have always been conflicting creatures who demand to have a reason and an explanation for everything. But, what happens when we do not have the answer for something or we cannot explain a fact? Well, it is when creativity comes to help us. The ancient Greeks, and even the Romans, were liberally people, free to believe in multiple gods, to love people of any sexes, and to speak out their minds without cruel judgment. Nonetheless, this wise environment changed when people began to divide themselves according to beliefs, I mean, religions. When people started to kill each other because of their thoughts? Well, I am not sure of when all of this started, but I am a hundred percent sure that Christ Jesus’ crucifixion is related to that.
After this event the war between Jews and Christians started to get harder, and at the end of the day the ones who were more affected were the Jews (because of this war and so many more). Is in this context where William Shakespeare developed his play The Merchant of Venice, having as the central characters Al Pacino as Shylock, the antagonist Jew, and Jeremy Irons as Antonio, the Christian.
It is interesting how Michael Radford’s film adaptation helps the viewer to analyze the play with a different perspective. When you read the play you face a Jew man, Shylock, who is full of anger and envy. We can see this since the first scene of the play when Bassanio invited Shylock for dinner and he said,
“Yes, to smell pork, to eat of the habitation which your prophet the Nazarite conjured the devil into! I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following, but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.” (Scene 1.3, lines 28-32)
Shylock seems to need a separation between him and Christians, he is so clear in his words, he can do business with them (of course, he need to subsist in a place full of Christians) but he is not sharing with them in any personal aspect. He simply despises them. In the play Shylock is clearly an unpleasant person who deserve what happened to him and who needs to change his mind in order to accept people as they are – this is what I thought before watching the film.
However, Radford’s adaptation start saying, “Intolerance of the Jews was a fact of 16th century life even in Venice, the most powerful and liberal city state in Europe.” So, Shakespeare shows us the story of a Jew and a Christian with a bad relationship, but Radford is going to show us the context in which this play is taking place and the complexity of the conflict...